Great Food Search: What is Pho?

Jul 26, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, The Great Food Search

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Our roving food critic Terrance Mc Arthur continues his search for great food in Sanger and the surrounding communities. Check out more Great Food Search here! Due to some computer issues, this column is a week later, but hey better late than never.

What is pho?
Before I tell you what it is, I have to tell you how to say it. It isn’t pronounced “foe.” You have to say “fuh,” which leads some people into off-color puns, but I try to show respect to people’s languages, so my puns will stay clean.


Bean sprouts, basil, jalapenos, and lime come with most dishes of Vietnamese pho.

Pho is a Vietnamese dish with rice noodles, veggies, and meat strips. Many pho restaurants have numbers in their names, like Pho 88, Pho 75, or Pho 99. The numbers can signify when the owners left Vietnam or the refugee camps, a birth year, or a lucky number. I had never tried pho until someone suggested I try it as a subject for the Great Food Search. Am I glad I listen to my readers!

My First Pho
China House Restaurant– 251 Academy Ave, Sanger. $5.75-$6.95.
The first pho I tried was at a restaurant that has been reviewed for the Great Food Search before. I had always gone to China House in Sanger (in the Northgate area) for Chinese food. I’d never tried their Vietnamese menu. The owners and staff were so helpful, answering LOTS of questions, and not making fun of me when I called it “foe.”
Since it was my first try, I didn’t know what to expect. I was brought a plate of bean sprouts, lime, basil on the sprig, and jalapeno slices with attitude. I was confused, because I was expecting a noodle soup; the plate’s contents were meant to be added into the soup to taste.

The Special Beef Noodle Soup had rice noodles that wanted to defy my fork (I’m too clumsy for chopsticks), slices of beef, onions (green and white), happy bunches of cilantro, and ligaments (I was surprised when told what it was, but pleased when I tried it). Meatballs shaped like flying saucers floated along, too. The Seafood Pho had shrimp, crab (or something like it), onions and cilantro and tofu (Oh, my!).


Pho-nominal! Pho from China House in Sanger.

The broths were tasty, the place is built for take-out (4 or 5 tables), and it’s a place that will definitely see me again.

Pho the Good Times
Pho Phuong Nine–4903 E Kings Canyon Rd, Fresno. $5.50-5.95
Squashed into the Asian-centric shopping center on the north side of East Kings Canyon Rd, east of Winery Ave., Pho Phuong Nine is the place to go for the broth. It is so flavorful, it’s a temptation for take-out customers to guzzle the liquid before they remember to add the solid parts, which are packed separately (One problem with pho take-out: If you live more than ten miles away, the rice noodles start solidifying into a brick-like mass. Eat at the restaurant, if you can).

The food was really good, and there’s a family atmosphere, with families and friends moving tables together. While I waited to pick up my order, I was shown to a table and brought water. That was nice. A warning–bring cash, they don’t take plastic.

Fee Pho Fo Fum
May’s Café–2327 N Fresno St, Fresno–
When I asked pho fans for recommendations, May’s Café was frequently mentioned. It’s on the southwest corner of Clinton and Fresno, across the intersection from the Veteran’s Hospital. It’s light and roomy, and the TV was tuned to the Game Show Channel that day. I took home a chicken pho and a beef pho–pho-ntastic! Lots of content, lots of flavor, lots of pho. Cash only.


Pho-ntastic! Pho from May's Café in Fresno.

My Opinion
Best overall–May’s Café
Best Broth–Pho Phuong Nine
Fun People–China House

Check out more food articles and more of Terrance’s Great Food Search column in our Food Fun section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Community Librarian for the WoW! (WithOut Walls) Division of the Fresno County Public Library, roaming the Valley to meet the public’s information needs.

1 Comment

  1. I like it, he is China’s Hunan cuisine. Good to eat


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